Overview:

In addition, unlawful smoking in both common and public areas will now result in a warning first, before any punitive action.

Changes were made to the City of Santa Monica’s smoking prohibition laws this week, most notably extending the smoke free zone to 30 feet from the entrance, exit or open window of any building open to the public.

Following an entertaining determination of what exactly, 20, 30 and even 40 feet actually looks like in chambers, council members agreed that health issues regarding second hand smoke remained a priority and the smoke free zone was ultimately extended from 20 to 30 feet in a “common area.”

Mayor pro tem Lana Negrete was one of the proponents for a longer setback saying the council shouldn’t worry about making the act of smoking difficult given its known dangers.
“The inconvenience to someone’s health far outweighs someone’s convenience to be able to smoke a cigarette and that’s for their own benefit as well,” she said.

A common area is considered all indoor and outdoor locations accessible to, and usable by, occupants of more than one unit, however “alleyways” were also added to that definition during the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening.

In addition, the law regarding warnings and citations had, up until now, been slightly different depending on the location of the offense. Currently, the City’s laws prohibit smoking in multi-unit residential properties, including their common areas. The remedy for a violation is limited to a person bringing a civil action against the violator, including an action in small claims court, subject to an award of damages of not less than $100. City staff are not authorized to enforce violations of smoking laws in multi-unit residential buildings.

In contrast, a violation for smoking at a site prohibited under the “specific locations” designation is enforced directly by the Santa Monica Police Department, who is authorized to issue a first violation fine of $100 (increasing to $200 for second violation and $500 for third).

According to the Council, the City has received a number of complaints in the past from residents in multi-unit residential buildings indicating they were reluctant to file a lawsuit against their neighbors and instead asked that the City intervene with direct action against those who violate the smoking laws in multi-unit residential properties.

Council member Jesse Zwick proposed that a warning be the first action, especially since the smoke free zone within the City of Santa Monica was about to be extended by an additional 10 feet and few residents would be immediately aware of this change.

After concerns were raised regarding how to track warnings should folk plead ignorance multiple times after multiple warnings, Daniel Mick, Code Enforcement Manager for the City of Santa Monica said, “For warnings that are going to be issued for residential properties, we would keep track of that and we would issue a notice of violation. It’s going to track the person’s name. It’s going to be trackable by the address.

“In my experience PD has always issued a warning before taking any punitive action,” Mick said.

Several councilmembers agreed.

“Education and outreach is the best form of compliance and I do think that having a notice to correct first, to give folks an opportunity to come into compliance first, is a much less punitive and more community-serving way to approach this,” Councilmember Caroline Torosis said.

All amendments were passed by a unanimous vote of seven to zero.

Santa Monica City law 4.44.020 states that it’s unlawful to smoke in the following places:

Any elevator, public park or parklet.

Any public beach or anywhere on the Santa Monica Pier.

Any outdoor service area or outdoor dining area.

 Inside any public building.

The Third Street Promenade or any farmers’ market.

The property of any public library.

Any hotel for which an occupancy permit is issued on or after February 9, 2012.

 Within 30 feet of the entrance, exit or open window of any building open to the public.

scott.snowden@smdp.com

Scott Snowden

Scott Snowden started with the SMDP in 2023 with a long list of journalistic experience. He has written local and international investigative work in Forbes, The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The...